While casually browsing the featured books section at the public library this morning, I bumped into a children’s comic book titled “Epigenetics: Bridge between genome and environment”. What a title for a children’s book, right? Curiosity made me open it, leading me to discover the brilliant way the authors chose to explain epigenetics:
“The DNA in each cell of a living being is identical-it’s like a piano keyboard. But what melody is played depends on which keys are pressed. The environment can be likened to the pianist.”
In other words your environment/lifestyle (how you sleep, how stressed you are, what you eat, the thoughts that you are having, whether or not you exercise) can determine whether or not your genes are turned on or off, like the light switch in your bedroom.
This isn’t to terrorise you into thinking that you need to control everything you do. What it does is provide hope that you can have real control over your body from the inside out. How your genes are expressed (as disease or not) is determined by how you live your life. Your grandmother had arthritis and you’re expecting to have joint pain the minute you hit 50? Do you have a headache almost daily but have decided to learn to live with it, because almost everyone else in your family does? Are you almost sure you’ll get a heart attack by the time you’re 65 because all males in your family did?
Think again. You might be predisposed to certain diseases, but if you play the right notes, you can change your gene expression. Not everyone needs to become a star performer, but anyone can learn the basics of living a healthy life.
The cover of the book that sparked this blog post
Alisa Vitti, Woman Code
Epigenetics: Bridge between genome and environment, Dr. Alexandra Weyrich, Annette Köhn, Olaf Nowacki.
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